|Who needs matches to end the show when you've got THIS?|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Anywho, a lot has happened since the last time I turned up the (Big) heat, so let's get right into the action - assuming, of course, you're not looking for action in the main event of RAW.
You see, the last time an episode of Monday Night RAW went off the air with a match was before Battleground; July 14, the show ended with a 3-on-2 handicap match pitting Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, and Kane against John Cena and Roman Reigns. If you recall - and you probably don't - the heels were DQed for, um, something? Nothing? My brain hurts trying to think, because in the grand scheme of things, it was truly inconsequential. All I know is that Rollins feigned an injury, and the other four competitors kept fighting until the show faded to black to set up the main event championship match at Battleground.
But since Cena retained his championship in that four-way match, each show has ended with someone talking, or multiple someones talking, or a contract signing, or even a birthday party. Technically, Heath Slater wrestled in the main event of an episode of Raw without the Nexus being involved. AND HE WON!
This shift away from wrestling matches being the main event of a wrestling show is intriguing - it's kind of like watching a football game, and at the two-minute warning the pads come off and the coaches try to win the game by announcing their plays instead of running them. Not exactly what the fans paid money to see.
But does it work in the professional wrestling setting? Football is an athletic endeavor, so taking away the athletic portion of the game is kind of ridiculous. But pro wrestling is equal parts athletics and theater, or sport and story. Taking out one or the other isn't as disastrous as losing the football part of football. Sometimes on RAW, you want to see a HOSS FIGHT with little to no context, because it's awesome. Similarly, sometimes you want to see Paul Heyman describe in detail what Brock Lesnar is capable of, as the Beast just stands there grinning like an idiot.
Speaking from a strictly programming standpoint, I can see the allure of having a promo segment both opening and closing the show - kind of like bookends. Symmetry is a wonderful thing, and maintaining order and balance in an art form is a goal most creators strive for.
"But what about starting and ending the show with a match?!?!" I imagine some of you frantically typing to ask me. Ever go see a musical? Bear with me for a second - old movies often follow the same kind of pattern, if you don't want to acknowledge that time you saw Cats or Phantom of the Opera. The very first thing that (traditionally) happens in a show filled with acting and singing and dancing is a dark stage with the curtain closed and only music playing to set the tone of the production. Only then do the actors emerge, and begin to sing and dance and Broadway it up.
And at the end of a musical? Exit music - there's a finale with no singing and dancing, then music for the actors to take their bows, and finally music to play the audience out of the building. Bookends. There's no "action" taking place at the beginning or end of a musical (or old movie) - just like a wrestling show might begin and end with promos. The performers/wrestlers come out at the show's open and set the tone - here are some matches for tonight, this is happening soon, I want to fight you, etc. The close of the show can be one more promo to wrap everything up in a nice little bow - let's sign the contract for that match I demanded before, because of what happened tonight I'm angry, etc.
And besides, as long as Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella aren't hogging the final segment, it's not like ratings have suffered. Whether that's more of "wow this is a great story" or "WHO IS LESNAR GOING TO TURN INTO A PILE OF BLOOD URINE AND VOMIT" I have no idea.